Miles Taylor

Miles Taylor is currently finishing a book about Queen Victoria and India.

Sir John Low​ finally hung up his helmet seventy years after joining the Madras army in 1804, having served the East India Company as soldier, jailer, agent and councillor. As a rookie lieutenant, his regiment mopped up in Mysore when the British took over the old kingdom of Tipu Sultan. He helped see off the Marathas at the battle of Mahidpur in 1817, and kept their chief minister, Baji...

Town Planner? Engels

Miles Taylor, 17 December 2009

The best of friends started as the closest of rivals. When Marx first met Engels in 1842 he immediately disliked his theology, his military uniform and the company he kept in the beerhalls of Berlin. Within a couple of years the two were housemates in Paris, co-authoring and co-conspiring their way towards The Communist Manifesto of 1848 and the revolutionary barricades of that momentous...

By the time Friedrich Engels arrived in England in the winter of 1842, the country already had a class warrior of its own. One of Engels’s new neighbours in downtown Manchester had spent the summer warning his countrymen of imminent social catastrophe. ‘It is my firm belief,’ Richard Cobden told the House of Commons in July, ‘that within six months we shall have...

The Duke of Wellington may have defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but it was English surgeons who finally cut the French emperor down to size. After his death on St Helena in May 1821, an autopsy was hastily arranged in order to quash claims that he had died from neglect. Napoleon’s height was recorded as a diminutive 5’2”, although he was actually...

Family History: Tony Benn

Miles Taylor, 25 September 2003

In February, two elderly men met in a Middle Eastern suburb and took afternoon tea. As old men do, they reminisced, chatted about their grandchildren and speculated on the perilous state of the world. The younger of the two had a problem: he had a reputation for being an aggressor and none of his neighbours, or his neighbours’ powerful friends, believed him when he said he had put away...

Hollesley Bay Prison in Suffolk is an unlikely spiritual home for English socialism. Britain’s most easterly lock-up, its seaside location, stud-farm and dairy have earned it the nickname ‘Holiday Bay’, and, given such luxury, it seems unsurprising that Jeffrey Archer is now seeing out his stretch there. Almost a hundred years ago, however, Hollesley Bay was one of the...

Thomas Carlyle was quite fond of the Chartists – until they opened their mouths. In an essay on Chartism published in 1839, the Sage of Chelsea harangued the political establishment and spoke up for the stoic dignity of the English working man: ‘Chartism with its pikes, Swing with his tinder box,’ he wrote, ‘speak a most loud though inarticulate language.’ Eleven...

Bring back the 19th century

Miles Taylor, 22 June 2000

Like the Swiss, British historians prefer their centuries to begin at a different time from everyone else. The 18th century has always begun in 1688 and, depending on your taste for military matters, the 20th century usually starts in 1914 or 1918. Even the 19th century continues to defy logic. Despite the territorial completion of the United Kingdom in 1801 and the death of Victoria almost exactly one hundred years later, historians still opt for a split at 1815 and an end in the 1880s. So in choosing to conclude his new survey at 1880, Richard Price joins a long tradition of irreverent timekeeping. Except that, according to Price, it is not the 19th century that ends in the 1880s, but the ‘long’ 18th century. In recent years the lifetime of the distinctive political regime and social structure which emerged under the House of Hanover in the early 18th century has been extended by historians to encompass the reigns of George IV and William IV. Now Price wishes to stretch the elastic a little further and bring in the Victorians as well. He argues that neither the advent of Parliamentary democracy in 1832 nor the coming of free trade in 1846 saw off the dominant features of the Hanoverian era. Only with the expansion of empire and the growth of central government in the last quarter of the 19th century did Britain become recognisably modern. There is plenty to commend in this approach, but it is also fraught with danger. With such a long 18th century, I begin to fear for the 19th. The Victorians are not simply being put in their place: they are being taken out of the picture altogether.‘

Strange Little Woman: First and Only Empress

Ferdinand Mount, 22 November 2018

It is not too much to say that this strange, self-educated, self-propelled little woman deserves a place among the makers of modern India.

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Spurning at the High: a poet of Chartism

Edward Pearce, 6 November 2003

Will became an ardent public man, working well in those times when reforms were begun with a young hopefulness of immediate good which has been much checked in our days, and getting at last...

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